SEO for E-commerce Websites: Top 10 Practical Tips for January 2021
SEO is one of the best ways for us to drive sustainable, long-term, traffic to our e-commerce websites.
Despite this, it’s a field that’s often overlooked and misunderstood.
It can be easy to become overwhelmed by the amount of information out there, to the point where you’re not even sure where to start.
That’s why today we’re going to go over our top practical and (relatively) easy tips for boosting your site’s SEO and earning you more organic traffic.
1. Make Sure Your Site is HTTPS Secured
One of the simplest SEO strategies you can probably implement right away is simply making sure your site is running on the HTTPS protocol, instead of HTTP.
We’re going to avoid going into needless technical details here, but we’ll give you a quick overview of what this is and why you should care.
HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) is the oldest “protocol” used to transfer data over the web and, ultimately, show us websites.
HTTPS stands for “Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure”, which as the name implies is a more secure version of HTTP.
Put simply, HTTPS adds a layer of security to your site that you wouldn’t have otherwise.
Why should we care?
Well, it’s been well known for years now that Google prioritises secure sites as part of their ranking algorithm, to improve user experience.
After all, if they direct you to a dodgy site, that’s on them.
They’ve even recently begun displaying scary-looking warnings to users on Google Chrome that try to access unsecured HTTP sites over their browser.
Overall then, it’s definitely worth upgrading.
And as we mentioned, it’s not even that hard.
All you need is to get your hands on an SSL certificate, install it on your website and make sure it’s functioning properly.
If you’re using a CMS like WordPress, there are lots of plugins and resources to help you.
So if you haven’t already, make sure your site is secure.
2. Optimise Your Website’s Performance and Loading Speed
This is another measure designed to promote better user experience, but important for us to consider as it can often get overlooked, especially for e-commerce sites.
Once you’ve loaded hundreds of product images, multiple plugins to manage functionality and all the other data your site needs, performance will naturally start to suffer.
The good news is that there are some effective ways for you to take control of improving your site’s performance yourself.
One of the easiest ways is using automated optimisation plugins for your CMS.
Platforms like WordPress and Shopify have plenty of options, so you can shop around to find one that works for you.
These plugins can do things like automatically compress images, optimise your code or delay loading intensive elements.
Not sure where to start? A great tool to consider is Google Pagespeed Insights.
It’ll tell you the elements affecting your site’s performance the most heavily, so you know what to focus on.
Do note that as of writing it doesn’t seem like they have local servers for this service, so the numbers may be higher than they are for a local website visitor.
You can work around this if you have a lot of international traffic by looking into a CDN (Content Delivery Service) network.
3. Design Your Site for Mobile Users
If you do use Pagespeed Insights, you may notice that Google actually has two rankings for each site: mobile and desktop.
In fact, Google’s algorithm now ranks your website entirely by what it sees on the mobile version.
That means if your desktop site is great, but your mobile version sucks, you’re going to do badly in the search rankings because all Google cares about is the mobile UX.
That means it’s imperative for SEO we always consider mobile users first when we’re designing, or optimising, our e-commerce websites.
Another thing to consider is mobile navigation.
Since Google only crawls your mobile site, pages that we remove from the desktop navigation when importing to mobile won’t be seen.
So make sure your site is fully (and easily) navigable on the mobile front.
4. Watch Out for Broken Links
A common mistake we see stores making is leaving “broken links” up on their site.
What do these mean?
Simply put, a link that leads to a webpage that no longer exists.
So, the browser will either take the user to a 404 page or simply show an error.
This can be incredibly harmful to SEO because if Google indexes a broken link or a page with broken links on it, users will “bounce” from the page (click away) incredibly quickly.
This signals to Google that your web page, and site, is low-quality or irrelevant.
As such they’re less likely to rank you highly in the future.
So, use a diagnostic tool to try and find broken links on your site and remove them.
There are plenty out there, including Google analytics itself.
5. Use Category Pages to Their Full Potential
One of the best opportunities for e-commerce sites to rank is through using category pages.
If we’re trying to capture online shoppers, category pages give us a great opportunity to create pages that are rich in keywords and high in traffic.
If your category pages don’t have any SEO metadata attached, like headings or meta descriptions, that’s just a lost opportunity.
So make sure your category pages are as specific as is feasible for your brand, and optimised for SEO.
Additionally, make sure your categories are all accessible from the front page to ensure Google crawls them properly (again, especially on mobile).
6. Take the Time to do Keyword Research
All of your SEO strategies can be for nothing if you don’t nail the keyword research upfront.
What do we mean by that?
Well, ranking for the wrong keywords, or wrong kinds of keywords doesn’t help us.
That’s why the number one overlooked thing we recommend when doing keyword research, is to consider search intent.
For instance, somebody searching “best affordable cars” has a much different intent than somebody searching “Nissan Micra turbo dealership”.
Which of those do you think is closer to becoming a sale?
Google’s goal is always to give users the most relevant results to what they’re actually searching for.
So our goal should be to provide it.
When choosing keywords, assessing intent is actually incredibly easy.
Google your keywords and see what comes up. These types of pages will tell you the intent behind them.
Then, if you’re trying to target people further down the funnel consider longer tail keywords.
7. Use Long-Tail Keywords
Speaking of long-tail keywords, they are an often overlooked strategy that can have great returns on SEO investment.
Why are long-tail keywords good? Why not go for shorter keywords, with more search behind them?
Well, it’s always going to be simpler to rank for a longer key phrase.
And, if we choose them carefully they can actually have higher buying intent attached than a short tail keyword.
This means we’re more likely to rank for them, and they can actually be more valuable for us.
It’s not possible for every industry or niche, but when it works it can have spectacular results.
8. Make Your URLs Short and Descriptive
Which of these two (fake) URLs make more sense to you:
It’s clearly the second, but many businesses still fall into the trap of not considering URL structure when setting up their online shop.
Google’s algorithm is also able to make sense of the second URL much more easily than the first.
This means it has a higher chance for ranking for relevant searches like “Blue tank tops” than the string of unintelligible numbers and letters.
Also note, however, that you don’t want to make your URLs too long, because research has shown that shorter URLs actually perform better on average.
So, when you’re setting up your store or looking to optimise its SEO, look at changing your URL structure to be short and readable.
9. Consider Adding a Blog or News Page
Having relevant content tailored to your industry is one of the best and most reliable ways to boost your SEO strategy and ensure high rankings.
Unfortunately, “shortcuts” can only take us so far.
If you want to fully pursue an SEO strategy as an avenue for long-term growth, you’re going to need some form of content marketing strategy attached to it.
The simplest formats for this are hosting a blog on your site with industry-relevant content, or a news page about new product releases in your industry.
Do your keyword research and hire good writers to create content around the most valuable keywords you identify, and eventually, you’ll start earning way more organic traffic and all the associated benefits.
It can be a chore at first, but consider it an investment into your company’s long-term health.
After all, if you’re not ranking at the top of the search results, your competitors probably are.
10. Look at Implementing Schema Markup
The last point is a little more technically challenging, so you’re probably going to need some outside assistance unless you have a technical background.
“Schema markup” is a system for tagging your website’s content with additional metadata that helps search engines understand it.
For instance, in cases where a word has more than one meaning, you can clarify specifically what your web-page is about, or you can just add more information to help Google correctly identify what your web pages are about.
You can find all the information about it on the website schema.org.
We hope this gave you a few ideas on how to improve your e-commerce store’s SEO in 2021.
SEO can be hard, and often take a frustratingly long time, but as we said up top it’s simply the best way to get sustainable long-term traffic coming to your website.
Think of it as an investment, and you’ll quickly start to see which areas are getting you real returns, and which you should focus on.
If you enjoyed this article or found it helpful, check out more e-commerce marketing content on the inSyte blog or listen to the inSyte Podcast.
This article was brought to you by Syte.
We’re a specialist e-commerce digital marketing agency dedicated to driving up your bottom line.
If you need any help optimising your e-commerce business’ digital marketing strategy, including SEO, feel free to reach out with the form below or check out our case studies page to see what we’ve been able to do for our clients.